This question could indicate that Elizabeth is paranoid, and suspicious of her husband. The acute awkwardness Miller has created between the couple may make the audience anxious as we wonder if their marriage can survive such strains. When John enters the scene carrying a gun which may represent his willingness to protect and do the best for his family, in his attempt to redeem himself for his affair with Abigail. Although the audience have not heard about John’s affair there is now definite evidence that something has disturbed the marriage as there is an eagerness to please each other.
When Miller shows John seasoning the food this may be regarded as a symbolic action; just as something is missing from the food to make it taste right, so there is something missing from his relationship. He “takes a pinch of salt and drops it into the pot;” his parallel actions of adding polite conversations may be Miler’s way of showing John trying to improve his marriage. Miller portrays Elizabeth as a character who struggles to participate in conversation with her husband, which reveals their emotional distance.
He presents the couple as if they are almost strangers, unsure of how to react around one another. Miller reveals Elizabeth to be “blushing” and “watching him” which suggests her nervousness and inability to completely trust her husband. Similarly Proctor speaks to her as “gently as he can” so as not to further alienate his wife. John attempts to show his affection to Elizabeth by kissing her, but “she receives it with a certain disappointment. ” This reflects her disappointment in John. The apparent physical distance therefore shows there is no warmth in their relationship.
Again, this is shown when Miller hints at romance: “Lilacs are the smell of nightfall” He does not do it with enough conviction for the audience to take it seriously. Miller’s pronounced repetition of “she watches him” reinforces Elizabeth’s insecurities over her husband; she is suspicious and finds it difficult to trust him. This creates the impression that Elizabeth is the subservient character whilst John is the more dominant one. The Proctors’ relationship has suffered much at the hands of Abigail Williams.
Miller has said that it was Abigail’s role in the events that awakened his interest in the whole story. A sensual adolescent, she has been flattered by Proctor’s attentions and offended by their cessation; Abigail: (grasping his hand before he can release it) John – I am waitin’ for you every night. Proctor: Abby, I never give you hope to wait for me. Her hostility towards Elizabeth is a strong motive for the trouble she causes, but by no means is the only one. To Elizabeth, Abigail is a constant reminder of John’s adultery.
As the audience we feel more sympathy towards Elizabeth as we witness her personal struggle when dealing when the affair between John and Abigail. By having Abigail at the centre of the accusations, Miller is creating more suffering for Elizabeth as Abigail is the centre of attention. Elizabeth’s faith suffers because she constantly emphasises her own insecurities. When Abigail’s name is mentioned tension between the couple escalates and Miller reveals a role reversal whereby Elizabeth becomes infuriated with her husband, “John you are not open with me. You saw her with a crowd, you said. ”
Elizabeth interprets what John says as he has been alone with Abigail – breaching her trust. She appears to be determined and forthright, speaking her mind, whereas John looks to be the inferior character; he knows he has little defence against the affair, “Spare me! You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’ Miller’s use of a long speech at this point in the play allows John to try and justify himself, however, his guilt is clearly evident. John’s “anger is rising” because he knows he is at fault and the “violent undertone” reinforces this idea as he battles with his conscience and Elizabeth.